4000 Holes

THE PHANTOM GARNER GOAL

Saturday, 18 May 2024
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Rovers faced Bury at Ewood on the final day of the 1979/80 season to celebrate a return to the second tier under Howard Kendall (promotion had been secured just days before at Bury). A 48-second clip from Saturday 3rd May 1980 was posted online by the club a while ago, which included the Rovers goal in the 2-1 defeat.

The first thing that struck me was Tony Parkes swinging in a beautiful left-footed free-kick which was headed in. Having never seen Tony play, it completely changed my perception of him as a player – I presumed he was right-footed but suddenly he had a “wand” of a left foot!

Secondly, it wasn’t immediately clear who scored because two Rovers players and a Bury defender challenged for the header together. However, the Number 3 is clearly visible on the player who headed it – Jim Branagan scored this goal. 

However, check your Mike Jackman book or other football encyclopedias… and the goal has been credited to Simon Garner, who was jumping alongside Branagan.

It was an easy mistake to make and perhaps resulted from a single incorrect call spreading around the press box. National papers credited Garner, as did the speedy Manchester Evening News snippet on the same day.

Surely the comprehensive local match report would clear the issue up… but inopportunely it turns out that the newspaper groups had been involved in a dispute with members of the National Graphical Association at the start of May causing two weeks of strikes! The industrial action is the reason why there was only a single-page matchday programme for the game too.

The Lancashire Evening Telegraph only returned on Tuesday 13th May 1980, including ‘Sports lines that you missed’. Dozens of brief stories contained merely: ‘Blackburn Rovers lost their last match of the season, being beaten 2-1 by relegated Bury at Ewood Park.’ Five photos from the promotion celebrations were shown elsewhere. No mention of Garner or Branagan anywhere.

Does it really matter? Probably not that much, unless you’re extremely pedantic about statistics and records being absolutely perfect. Or Jim Branagan, who has lost his goal! Arguably it’s just like a player being wrongly awarded a goal when they were clearly offside. Before the days of extensive video coverage, wrongly credited legal goals were also probably more common. 

Simon Garner is still by far the club’s record goalscorer. It’d only become a big discussion topic if a future player ever got to 180+ goals and was hunting the record down. What’s the “true” mark to break? And indeed which of Garner's goals against Manchester City in 1989 actually broke Tommy Briggs' record? It’s an excellent bit of niche Rovers trivia!

Are we chalking off one of Simon Garner’s club record 192 goals then? Please get in touch if anyone has any information about the mystery phantom goal… 

‘Not Simon Garner’

This article was originally published in Issue 110 of 4,000 Holes. Please consider buying a zine for just £2 here to help support this long-running piece of Rovers history. Cheers.

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